Described by Franz Josef I as “earthly paradise”, this is Austria’s quintessential lakes and mountains region. Located east of Salzburg, the stunning alpine scenery and impressive expanses of water provide a picture-perfect playground for hiking and watersports.
About this Austria walking region
Renowned for its glorious scenery, pretty villages and a vast network of glassy, blue lakes (76 in total), the Salzkammergut is also characterised by its traditional architecture, customs and cuisine. Much of the area – including the world-famous Hallstatt region – has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997.
The Salzkammergut region includes the City of Salzburg and stretches out to the Dachstein mountain range. It is widely recognised as one of Austria’s most popular attractions, suiting those who seek both adventure and tranquility equally, because while there is plenty to see and do, the area has a supremely relaxing feel to it.
Hiking is undoubtedly the best way to explore the many hills, lakes and villages of Salzkammergut.
Salzkammergut is not a federal province, but a region which is effectively shared between Salzburg, Styria and Upper Austria, where you’ll find Bad Ischl, the region’s administrative centre. The area encompasses a number of popular lakes including the largest, Attersee, neighbouring Mondsee and Traunsee, and the much-visited Hallstätter See in the south.
The region first became prosperous in the Bronze Age, when salt (“Salz”) was discovered.
Walking in the Salzkammergut
Hikers will be spoilt for choice in Salzkammergut. There is an extensive network of well-signposted walking and hiking trails to suit all abilities.
The northern end of the region is characterised by large mountains, while most of the bigger lakes are in the south. Some of the most impressive peaks include Mt. Dachstein (some 2,995 metres/9,826 feet high) and Hoher Dachstein, which towers majestically over the borders of Upper Austria and Styria in central Austria. The Dachstein massif is also hugely popular with scramblers and climbers, largely due to its vie ferrate (Klettersteige).
Routes on the Klettersteige vary from ‘protected scramble’ to ‘experience required’. They essentially comprise a network of skilfully installed fixed cables and ladders, which can assist walkers in reaching higher levels. Once at the top, you can usually hike on to a nearby mountain hut, or back to the start via a footpath.
As impressive as the mountains are, there are still a vast number of relatively easy hiking routes available, too. The lake shores are ideal for scenic circuit walks and there are a number of family-friendly trails taking you through some of the loveliest parts of this alpine wonderland.